Mine's future still unclear

SHREE Minerals is refusing to say if transport delays will force a halt to production at its North-West iron ore mine.

In a statement to the stock exchange yesterday, the Perth-based company said work at the mine was progressing well, but transportation of the product to port was slower than expected. 

``This has resulted in a build [up] of ore product stocks on site at NBR awaiting transportation to port,'' the statement said.

``The company is currently working with relevant stakeholders to improve transportation rates in the short term.'' 

The company said ``mine scheduling has been adjusted'' but it remains unclear whether production will stop entirely.

The next shipment is expected to start loading at the end of the month.  

Yesterday, Circular Head Mayor Daryl Quilliam said he had heard that work would be suspended for a few weeks due to falling iron ore prices.

The company opened its Nelson Bay River mine in October last year after it was  given the green light after several legal challenges from environment groups. 

At the time, Shree chairman Sanjay Loyalka said the mine would produce 400,000 tonnes of shipment-ready iron ore annually for the next two to three years, creating 50 immediate jobs and potentially another 70 as the project expanded.

The mine has a 10-year life span, but further exploration could see that stretch to 40 years.

In its March quarterly report, Shree Minerals noted a sharp decrease in iron ore prices and higher freight charges.  

Greens leader Kim Booth called on the company to come clean on the future of the mine. 

``Many people, including financial analysts, had warned that the iron ore market would drop, warned this project did not have a financially viable business case, yet both the federal and state governments changed the rules to facilitate it, and now Tasmanians are at risk of having to pay the price,'' Mr Booth said. 

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